This is only the third time Pune Warriors India would be participating in the Indian Premier League (IPL) so they would be at a distinct disadvantage compared to some other franchises, who have been part of the league since its inception. Then again, a number of players in the current Pune squad have been part of some franchise or the other in the preceding years, which might prove beneficial to the side in some manner. For the record, Pune had failed to get past the group stage both in 2011 and 2012, so they have plenty of work to do.
Strengths: If there is one reason why Pune must be optimistic about their performance, it is the fact that they have some genuine match-winners in their ranks, especially in the batting department. Yuvraj Singh is among the most destructive batsmen in T20 format and has the ability to clear the field with ease. Pune will be seeking consistency from him, being an experienced player. The presence of Marlon Samuels, who was the man of the match in the World T20 final last year, would give the side further confidence. Samuels is an extremely dangerous hitter, who can hit the ball a long way.
Pune also have in their midst Ross Taylor. The former Kiwi captain has played some sizzling knocks in this format. Pune would hope he continues to do so albeit with a greater degree of consistency. Robin Uthappa, Steven Smith and Luke Wright are other extremely handy batters, who are gifted with the talent to hit the big sixes. If the trio performs to potential, there is no reason why Pune shouldn’t do well. Also, in skipper Angelo Mathews they have someone who can make crucial contributions with bat and ball.
Weaknesses: With Michael Clarke being ruled out due to injury, Pune would be weakened for sure. Clarke was supposed to take over the captaincy of the franchise, but now he won’t be available for the entire duration of the tournament. Bowling is another area which will be a big cause of concern for the Pune outfit. A glance at the squad and you cannot really find a genuine match-winning bowler. There is Ajantha Mendis, who isn’t the same threat he used to be when he first entered international cricket. Wayne Parnell isn’t a certainty in the South African side itself, and hasn’t done anything extraordinary in the IPL so far. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has made a good impact in international cricket with his nippy deliveries, but he’ll be on test in the tournament. Among others, Mitchell Marsh and Ashok Dinda don’t fall in the league of threatening bowlers.
Opportunities: A couple of names, who were big buys for Pune at the auction, have a chance to prove their worth. Kane Richardson is a budding all-rounder, who is said to possess the big-hitting skills while India’s Abhishek Nayar is a good utility cricketer. The edition also gives leggie Rahul Sharma a chance to make news for the right reasons.
Threats: The sense of stability has been missing in the Pune ranks. They have had to chop and change players due to various reasons, and have also been involved in unwanted controversies.
--By A Cricket Analyst